Russian authorities on Thursday ordered Facebook and the messaging application Telegram pay heavy fines for not removing prohibited content, a move that could be part of the government’s growing efforts to tighten its grip on social media amid political dissent.
A Moscow court fined Facebook with 17 million rubles ($ 236,000) and to Telegram with 10 million rubles ($ 139,000). It was not immediately clear what type of content the platforms did not remove.
It is the second time both companies have been fined in recent weeks. On May 25, Facebook was ordered to pay 26 million rubles ($ 362,000) for not removing content deemed illegal by Russian authorities. A month ago, Telegram was ordered to pay 5 million rubles ($ 69,000) for not removing messages calling for protests.
Earlier this year, Russian communications regulator Roskomnadzor slowed Twitter down and threatened to ban it, also for its alleged failure to remove unauthorized content. Authorities said the platform did not remove content that encouraged suicide among children and contained information about drugs and child pornography.
Russian authorities have criticized social media because it has been used to call demonstrations across Russia this year to demand the release of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, the best-known critic of President Vladimir Putin. The mobilizations have been a great challenge for the Kremlin.
Officials allege that the social media posts also summoned children to join the protests. Putin has urged the police to act more to monitor such platforms and track those who lure children to “illegal and unauthorized street actions.”
Moscow’s efforts to tighten control of the internet and social media date back to 2012, when a law was adopted allowing authorities to blacklist and block certain content online. Since then, various restrictions on messaging applications, websites and social networks have been introduced in Russia.